Fellow Atheists/Agnostic Atheists - Let's Chat: Do you feel it is risky being "out" these days?

Wembley wrote:
KingGorilla wrote:

Or dating a vegan/vegetarian while still eating meat.

My wife is a vegetarian and I am not. We seem to be doing okay. ;-)

My wife is currently vegetarian but she ate meat for the first 4 years of our relationship. It was never an issue.

I hate you all with the intensity of 1,000 white dwarf stars.

KingGorilla wrote:

I hate you all with the intensity of 1,000 white dwarf stars.

For energy intensity, I don't think you can beat a nice gamma ray burst.

Grubber788 wrote:

Maybe I'm mis-reading you, but how do you apply value to your life? I think if I honestly believed that I was just another collection of cells in a cold vacuum, with no philosophical purpose (that part I might be misreading), I would probably spend all of my money on the most hedonistic activities. In a life without purpose, what's the point of living?

All joking aside, you pretty much answered your own question there. It's just that what you think you meant by hedonism (sex and drugs and rock'n'roll?) doesn't capture the full scope of what I think of as hedonism.

Hedonism is the devotion to pleasure as a way of life. Sex and drugs and rock'n'roll sure do give me pleasure. But so does seeing my wife happy. So does helping my friends move house. So does improving myself, mentally and physically. So does playing videogames, and eating a good meal. So does paying my taxes and being a stand-up guy.

To say that my life is devoid of meaning is just absurd. My life is full of meaning. Everything I do has meaning. I just recognize that that meaning is subjective, transitory and constantly in flux. I don't need to apply value to my life. Value is inherent in it, and if I honestly believed it wasn't, I'd probably be a suicide statistic. The fact that the closest I've come to suicide is watching it on TV speaks volumes to how much meaning and value I've always unconsciously felt is in my life.

The universe may be cold and uncaring at large, but the teeny-tiny corner of it that I inhabit is as full of warmth, love and caring as I can make it. How's that devoid of meaning again?

Well put, Jonman.

There's also the consideration of in order for you to pursue pleasure you have to work within a society of others. That means you have to pay taxes, get along with others (more or less), obey laws. Otherwise anarchy would result if everyone chose to do their own thing. It isn't fear or belief in the everafter that causes me to say "thank you" to people or to not waste the old f*cker driving slowly in front of me. It is knowledge that I am treating others based on how I would like to be treated.

I think some of you may be assuming that I think that life is meaningless, which I can't recall actually saying. When I said

In a life without purpose, what's the point of living?

I meant it specifically as a macro question about our role in the universe and whether or not it is foolish to believe we have a greater purpose than self and species preservation.

My own view is that yes, there is meaning to life, but I'm still working on the details.

Jonman wrote:

Hedonism thoughts..

IMAGE(http://www.ex-boyfriendcollection.com/blog/wp-content/uploads/hedonism.jpg)

Grubber788 wrote:

I suspect I might be too agnostic for my own good, asking pointed questions like:

Why not kill?
Why not steal?
Why love your own children more than a random stranger?
Why do we exist?

It's not that I walk around wanting to kill or steal or that I don't understand the rationale behind having strong feeling towards ones own offspring or that I would spend my sanity dwelling on questions that may or may not have answers, but I guess so long as I am troubled philosophically by my own existence, I will just have to keep on asking why to even the simplest of questions.

The pretty basic answer is we don't get morality from religion, we get religion from morality. Morality exists to confirm and codify the social mores and standards that currently exist in the society. We don't frown upon killing because the Ten Commandments say "Thou Shalt Not Kill": the commandments say that because society frowns upon killing.

MilkmanDanimal wrote:
Grubber788 wrote:

I suspect I might be too agnostic for my own good, asking pointed questions like:

Why not kill?
Why not steal?
Why love your own children more than a random stranger?
Why do we exist?

It's not that I walk around wanting to kill or steal or that I don't understand the rationale behind having strong feeling towards ones own offspring or that I would spend my sanity dwelling on questions that may or may not have answers, but I guess so long as I am troubled philosophically by my own existence, I will just have to keep on asking why to even the simplest of questions.

The pretty basic answer is we don't get morality from religion, we get religion from morality. Morality exists to confirm and codify the social mores and standards that currently exist in the society. We don't frown upon killing because the Ten Commandments say "Thou Shalt Not Kill": the commandments say that because society frowns upon killing.

Religion definitely follows society. Once society decided that shrimp were delicious the religions dropped that like hotcakes.

My view to a lot of these questions(Why not Kill? etc) was shaped pretty strongly when I read the selfish gene. It explained a lot of things about how biology and evolution work to alter behavior and it seems completely consistent to how society in general treats these questions.

For example when asking the question "In an uncaring Universe why do we not kill?" I think the answer is really just that we don't want to. Why don't we want to? I think it is because we are social animals and wanton killing would destroy that society and probably result in the deaths of those who were in it. Basically, I think biology or evolution answers those questions. I think the same answers are also found in questions like "Why do we help others?" "Why do we protect the weak?" etc.

I don't think it needs to be any deeper than that to explain it.

I've observed before that our morality is species based. If we were obligate predators, killing would be just another part of daily life. Morality is not only not given to us by a perfect god, but it's oddly tied to the way our species operates socially. Well, odd if you think there's one universal standard for morality that every creature "should" follow.

I guess if you consider morality tied to the way our species operates socially, that could help to explain the prejudice against atheists this thread is about: atheism would be, after all, the rejection of a social institution. It would make evolutionary sense for members of a society to have an issue with people who reject the idea of belonging to a church if the impulse to be social animals is written into us at a genetic level.

Could the selfish gene also be a...religious gene?

There have been studies done on the genetic component of beliefs. There seems to be one - some people are more likely to be religious than others, so even within families there are differences. It's pretty small, though, compared to environment, as I recall. But the really interesting stuff is that you get most of your beliefs not from the family, but rather from the other families around you that you interact with. If you're religious, and in a social setting with worship groups (churches, synagogues, etc) which regularly meet, you are more likely to adopt their beliefs than those of your parents, or those you see on tv or read about.

What happens then is that you take your set of beliefs and go and find evidence for them in the world around you. That's by far the most common way to come to belief - you learn it from your friends and social circle, sometimes from your family, and rarely from books - then you start looking for evidence to support it.

It has also been suggested that the pattern seeking behavior that is so often useful in daily life, particularly as we were evolving contributes in the creation or of gods and the attribution of things to them.

I think it is all fascinating but it is worth pointing out that even with a God gene the argument for Gods is not strengthened.

There was a recent study published in Science that found a negative correlation between religious belief and an analytic thought process.

http://www.latimes.com/news/science/...

abstract from the article wrote:

Analytic Thinking Promotes Religious Disbelief

Scientific interest in the cognitive underpinnings of religious belief has grown in recent years. However, to date, little experimental research has focused on the cognitive processes that may promote religious disbelief. The present studies apply a dual-process model of cognitive processing to this problem, testing the hypothesis that analytic processing promotes religious disbelief. Individual differences in the tendency to analytically override initially flawed intuitions in reasoning were associated with increased religious disbelief. Four additional experiments provided evidence of causation, as subtle manipulations known to trigger analytic processing also encouraged religious disbelief. Combined, these studies indicate that analytic processing is one factor (presumably among several) that promotes religious disbelief. Although these findings do not speak directly to conversations about the inherent rationality, value, or truth of religious beliefs, they illuminate one cognitive factor that may influence such discussions.

The LA Times story actually does a pretty good job of reporting on the article without sensationlizing or blowing the conclusions out of proportion.

While part of me, as a non-believer, would like to feel pride in being too analytically minded to fall for creeds that are logically inconsistent. I remember being a believer enough to point out that for many, authentic religious or spiritual expereince has precious little to do with truth claims, creeds, or dogma and much more to do with being open to the numinous.

If you have access to a Science subscription, here is the citation:

Analytic Thinking Promotes Religious Disbelief
Will M. Gervais and Ara Norenzayan
Science 27 April 2012: 336 (6080), 493-496. [DOI:10.1126/science.1215647]

Today one of the people that I'm "friends" with on facebook posted this (I really should delete them):

Our pastor at church this morning. He's awesome.

IMAGE(http://desmond.imageshack.us/Himg233/scaled.php?server=233&filename=55848642854933048841110.jpg&res=landing)

Apparently many churches are preparing to physically fight against the "evil" non Super-Perfect-Christian churches. Evangelicals are scaring me more than they did when I lived in the bible belt with them (this is a church on the Indiana/KY border).

**Edit**- Apparently the whole peace, love and charity part of Christianity is taking a backseat to the "war on religion" and "preparing to defend against the non-believers-that-love-satan-and-want-to-murder-Christians-in-their-sleep".

Looks like their pastor is ready to take the fight to the Covenant!

Seriously though... absolutely terrifying.

Wait, isn't that just a plastic guitar? He's rocking out, not threatening anyone?

Yeah, do you have any more context for that photo? It's not that I disbelieve you, but that's a very blurry photo of that bigfoot alleged soldier. I don't doubt the possibility of nutjobs like you describe, but I've been caught out in the past assuming the worst of theists, which is really no better than them doing it to us. In fact, we should know better.

Redwing wrote:

Yeah, do you have any more context for that photo? It's not that I disbelieve you, but that's a very blurry photo of that bigfoot alleged soldier. I don't doubt the possibility of nutjobs like you describe, but I've been caught out in the past assuming the worst of theists, which is really no better than them doing it to us. In fact, we should know better.

True, but why would a pastor of an evangelical church be dressing up in body armor and rifle (or pretend rifle) other than preparing for a war?

Could have been laundry day.

I would also assume the worst if an athiest organization had their leader show up with body armor and a weapon (or fake one) is preparing for something that is not going to end well.

I think you may all be forgetting how goofy a lot of church stuff is. There's an excellent chance this dude is talking about putting on the armor of God or how he's a terrible shot when playing paintball which relates to the topic because sin means "missing the mark" or something. Or he's all like "GOD also gives us a Call of Duty. It's called the great commission!"

The goofy, friendly Christians outnumber the militant ones by a wide margin. They're the ones putting on the teen night on friday and booking the christian ska bands I used to play in.

That said, there are also plenty of militant and militaristic christians out there. So whatevs.

Yup, I'm with the "this really needs more context to determine whether it's scary or hokey" crowd.

Farscry wrote:

Yup, I'm with the "this really needs more context to determine whether it's scary or hokey" crowd. :)

Can't it be both?
Also why is everyone else in that picture staring at their shoes? Is the crazy-man trying to make eye-contact or something?

Well yeah, it could be both. But I sat through enough "armor of god" and "soldiers for christ" sermons growing up that I can completely see this being one of those harmless hokey deals instead of something worrying.

Farscry wrote:

Well yeah, it could be both. But I sat through enough "armor of god" and "soldiers for christ" sermons growing up that I can completely see this being one of those harmless hokey deals instead of something worrying. ;)

I saw something in this vein to this last year in the church nursery/day care at a coast guard station near where I grew up. Essentially a poster showing an outfitted Roman legionary and using each piece of equipment as an allegory for dealing with challenges to your faith. The helmet, for instance, was something along reminding you to guard against opposing or contradictory ideas and trust in your beliefs. Or it might have been the shield. I can't remember what the sword was for.

More on the hokey/harmless side, until you remember that it's in the frelling nursery. Certainly not someone dressing in modern combat gear and talking about going to war.

Not to mention the irony of using a Roman legionary as an allegory for strong Christan faith.. more hokey points there.

Reversing the contexts here, I wonder what members of an evangelical church would think of the Gamerswithjobs.com forums from a random screenshot or quoted post?

Would they see nice people building a community of trust, support, respect, and sanity in the middle of the crazy stuff that is on the web? Or would they see finger --> butt, wiener bomb, jewbies, oogaba, and Shalalm Baskur?

I'm biased against Evangelicals because I used to be one. I'm like an ex-smoker who gets all pissy when he smells someone else enjoying a cigarette in public that way. However, the crazy stuff generally ends up just being a *human* trait, not an evangelical trait. People worshipping violence in a house of prayer scares the snot out of me, but that picture is pretty easy to take out of context. Especially when I'm pre-disposed to assume the worst of that particular group.

KrazyTacoFO wrote:

Apparently many churches are preparing to physically fight against the "evil" non Super-Perfect-Christian churches. Evangelicals are scaring me more than they did when I lived in the bible belt with them (this is a church on the Indiana/KY border).

**Edit**- Apparently the whole peace, love and charity part of Christianity is taking a backseat to the "war on religion" and "preparing to defend against the non-believers-that-love-satan-and-want-to-murder-Christians-in-their-sleep".

To me, the first question is whether or not the above quote is an assumption on the part of Krazy, or if this is info he got from his Facebook friend.

As someone formerly involved in those kinds of churches (that is, very evangelical) back in the 80's thru about the mid 90's, I can tell you what that probably is.

It is extremely common in evangelical (fundy) churches to talk about "the armor of God", girding oneself with the "shield of faith", wielding the "sword of the Word", etc. They are not literal ideas of combat, but figurative and are meant to express going to 'battle' in the spiritual realm. Fundies fully believe that evil spirits are flying all around the world, attempting to sway, influence, and steal souls from God. These evangelicals believe themselves to be spiritual "soldiers" for God, and they do battle via prayer, preaching the word, studying the bible, and attempting to convert non-believers to God's side.

I guess God sits back with a bowl of popcorn and enjoys the show.

Ephesians 6:11: Put on the full armor of God so that you can take your stand against the devil's schemes. (NIV)

1st John 5:19: "...the whole world is under the sway of the evil one."

Also, here's a page that explains the "full armor of God" that is commonly taught in fundy churches: http://www.crossroad.to/Victory/Armo...